USC vs Arizona game review

It was a game the USC Trojans were supposed to win and they went out and took care of business with a 45-0 beating of the Arizona Wildcats in front of 39,201 in Tucson. The Trojans jumped out to an early 35-0 lead in the first half behind the passing combination of Matt Leinart to Mike Williams as they hooked up for three TD passes. The USC defense also had a good day despite missing several starters as they were able to post their second shutout of the season.

Heisman Aspirants

Carson Palmer won the Heisman Trophy last season so it stands to reason that the two Trojan sophomore candidates, Mike Williams and Matt Leinart, would have a tough time convincing the voters to return the Trophy once again to Heritage Hall this year.  However, that didn't stop the pair from being included on the Heisman "aspirant" list which was recently mailed to players to let them know they are being considered for the award.  Based upon their performance on Saturday, one could easily assume that this won't be the last time either player is up for major honors. Williams was such a major part of the Heisman run for Palmer last year and he has been just as dependable for his new quarterback this season.  One of the best moves the Trojan coaching staff made this past fall was having Williams and Leinart room together during fall camp because we've seen a bond develop between them which has carried over onto the field.  In the game on Saturday we saw the full array of possibilities as Leinart hooked up with Williams on a variety of routes, including ones where he was covered or where he admittedly ran the wrong route.  In the end, however, it simply didn't matter because the 6-5 Williams makes an inviting target for any quarterback and Leinart has long since discovered that good things usually happen when you throw the ball in his direction.  We all recognize how special Williams has become as a receiver and the fact that he set a USC career mark for touchdowns, with several games left to go in his sophomore season as a Trojan, speaks volumes for how much he has accomplished in such a short period of time.  Leinart also took a page from the record book by breaking one of Palmers marks, most consecutive passes without an interception, and that deserves a tip of the hat to a player who had his share of doubters after a couple 3-interception games earlier this year.  We've seen a lot of fine passing combinations at USC but with what this pair has already done, and with what they can do in the future, it's fun to imagine what is possible in the coming years.

Notes from the Sidelines

Jason Leach led the way for the Trojan defense with a terrific performance that included 12 tackles, eight in the first half alone, as well as a strip of the ball which caused a fumble that was recovered by Marcell Allmond....Collin Ashton, a walk-on sophomore, was pushed into the starting line-up due to an injury to Melvin Simmons and he responded with eight tackles, 2nd on the team, and a forced fumble.  Ashton had seen action primarily on special teams before making his starting debut in the game....The USC coaches emphasized starting the game fast and LenDale White opened the scoring with a short touchdown run and then later provided a 43 yard touchdown run to close the scoring for the Trojans. White eclipsed the freshman TD mark set by another White, Charles, in 1976....It was a record setting day for the Trojans as several marks were set; Mike Williams (most TD catches in a USC career—26), Matt Leinart (most consecutive passes without an interception—165), Ryan Killeen (most PAT's in a season—49) and LenDale White (most TD's for a freshman—11)….Will Poole has been such a great addition, even if it's only for one year, and he once again made an impact with two interceptions and his usual excellent coverage.  Will also returned four punts….Kenechi Udeze had five tackles, including four solos, along with a sack and 2.5 tackles for loss...Keary Colbert continued his assault on the all-time SC reception mark with 7 catches for 76 yards…..We also saw the future of the WR spot with both Steve Smith and Whitney Lewis.  Smith had a good sideline grab in the first half and then came back later with a catch and run that showcased his speed as he outran several defenders for extra yardage.  Lewis had a pair of catches and we should see plenty more where that came from in the future….The Trojans have averaged 43 points per game since the Cal loss…..Gregg Guenther provided the play of the day with a one handed, acrobatic grab of a Leinart pass in the end zone…..Tom Malone only had one punt in the game but it was a 47 yard effort that pinned the Wildcats inside the five.  Malone may not earn national rankings due to lack of opportunities but his value to the USC team cannot be ignored…..The last 14 Trojan wins have each been by 17 or more points….Marcell Allmond had an interception and a recovered fumble...Lofa Tatupu celebrated his 21st birthday on the day of the game but he did it without his normal LB starters next to him as both Matt Grootegoed and Melvin Simmons were held out due to injuries

Key to the Game - 1st half execution

To say this game was over before it got started would be an overstatement but it didn't take long for the Trojans to show that there would be no slow start in this game, no period of adjustment that would allow Arizona to stay in the game and think they had a chance.  The Trojans were coming off a bye week and we all know what happened the last time a bye week hit, we started slow to open the game against Cal and dug ourselves a hole early in the game which ended up biting us in the butt.  There was no such letdown this time.  From the opening drive the Trojans looked crisp and sharp on both sides of the football.  On offense, Matt Leinart was clicking with his passes and part of the reason for that was he had all day to throw the football.  The USC offensive line did a terrific job of keeping the pressure off their quarterback and that allowed Leinart to pick apart the Wildcat defense.  In the first half alone Leinart was 18-25 for 268 yards and four TD's with 10 of those completions and three of the touchdowns going to Mike Williams.  On defense, the effort was just as solid.  The Trojans didn't allow Arizona a first down until the score was already 14-0 and the vaunted Wildcat tailback Mike Bell, who had put up over 200 yards against Washington the previous week, was held to one yard per carry on 14 total carries for the game.  Jason Leach was all over the field in the first half with eight tackles and his was the kind of overwhelming presence that we had come to expect from Troy Polamalu last year.  It was needed on this night with Groots, Simmons and Nazel all out of the game and Leach delivered. 

Final Thoughts

We knew going into Tucson that as long as we took care of our own business that things would be fine and that's exactly what happened.  The Trojans simply had too much talent for the Wildcats, both on the field and in the coaching box, and we calmly and methodically took control of the game early and never looked back.  OK, so now that the Arizona game is out of the way it's time to focus on the Bruins and with the current state of UCLA football these days that's a very pleasurable thought indeed.  There is a lot on the line for the Trojans next Saturday, not the least of which is hometown pride and the opportunity to send the Bruins reeling even more than they are now, and you can be sure USC coach Pete Carroll will look to keep his team focused on the game directly in front of them.  We all know what's possible down the road if we keep winning, you can't turn on the TV or read an internet site without being bombarded with the latest BCS projections or numerical standings, so it's best just to leave those possibilities there and focus instead on the opportunity at hand with the Bruins.  Can any Trojan fan forget how enjoyable it has been the last two times we've met up with the crew from Westwood?  In case you've forgotten, here's a quick reminder.  Two years ago the Bruins came into the Coliseum thinking they actually had a chance to win the game and the Trojans sent them packing with one of the more pleasurable wins this writer has ever seen.  The simple phrase "27-0" was enough to shut up any Bruin fan for the next year after USC simply demolished UCLA in one of the more one-sided efforts in the history of the rivalry.  Of course, many powder blue faithful considered that game a fluke so the Trojans were forced to go out last season and do it again with a 52-21 whacking that wasn't as close as the score would indicate.  There haven't been too many finer sights than the Rose Bowl in the 4th quarter on that day as the Bruin fans departed early from their seats, can't imagine why, and left the end zones full of cardinal and gold clad fans savoring every minute.  Of course, all the empty seats in the UCLA section led to the classic line from Carroll "they must be giving out free pizza in the parking lot".  The only down note of that game is that it led to the eventual firing of Bob Toledo although the Karl Dorrell era isn't doing anything so far to send shivers down the spines of Trojan fans.  One of things Carroll has tried to do with the UCLA game the past two years is to show how much separation has been achieved between the two programs and as long as his team can stay focused on the task at hand we should be fine.  The Coliseum will be packed with 92,000 fans going crazy, including a sideline full of recruits who are looking to be a part of something special, and the atmosphere will be electric.  For Trojan fans enjoying this special season with all that is possible in the coming weeks there can be nothing finer than facing the Bruins on our home field and showing them exactly what USC football is all about.  It should be a great day to be a Trojan.


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